What Character Traits Should a Child Carer Have?

What separates fantastic babysitters, nannies and child carers in general, from the so-so ones?

First, let's state the obvious: Childcare such as nannies, au pairs, babysitters and any kind of childminder must love children. But there's so much more parents have to consider when deciding which character traits are most important. A child carer is a Parent's Top Assistant, so using the “PARENTS TOP ASST” acronym is a helpful way to remember you have all the qualifications you need.

PARENTS TOP ASST:


  • P layful:
    Parents want a child carer with a good imagination who can create games, activities, and crafts. They don't want child carers popping their children in front of the telly. A playful personality shows parents that you genuinely care about fostering a healthy, fun, and active environment for their children.

  • A ctive:
    Kids are high energy and are constantly on the go. A child carer needs to match that energy and must come prepared for however the day or night unfolds.

  • R esponsible:
    A reliable child carer is every parent's dream. Parents want someone whom they can depend on, someone they can trust, and someone who is capable of responsibly caring for their children. Think 5 minutes early, rather than rushing in on the dot of your start time.

  • E xperience:
    Child caring is not as easy as you might think. It takes preparation, confidence, and skill. Having experience with children allows you to gain the skills you need. Parents will want carers who know how to think on their feet when unplanned circumstances arise, stay cool headed when a child is upset or injured, and negotiate arguments over toys and games. Having real-life situations where your skills are challenged allows you to learn to make the best decisions while you're on the job.  You might want to consider getting the experience you need by starting as a Mother's Helper, Childminder’s assistant or Teaching assistant or babysitter to children in your neighbourhood.

  • N egotiable:
    Parents appreciate someone who is adaptable. Being negotiable means being flexible about schedules, fair about pay rates, and easy-going about nights that run later than expected. You don't want parents to take advantage of your time, but you should understand that plans change. Being flexible will make you stand out. Yet, you should still make sure you're not being underpaid.

  • T eacher:
    Part tutor, part mentor, child carers engage children, address concerns in a constructive manner, and act as role models. By helping with homework, you show parents you care about their children's performance in school; by helping them work through their issues with friends and schoolmates, you show parents you are compassionate about their children's feelings.

  • S ensitive:
    People who work with children are sensitive to their needs and put the children's wants and wishes before their own. As a child carer, you may not always want to play this game or read that book, but you should want to do whatever makes the children happy.

  • T rustworthy:
    Being trustworthy is perhaps one of the most important traits that a child carer can have.  Parents expect a carer to follow the rules of the household, to keep the children safe, and to pay attention to their children. They don't want someone who’s texting friends or inviting their boyfriend over to the house. This is not a time to socialise.

  • O n time:
    A child carer should be punctual. Full stop. But be sure to let the family know if you are running late or give the family a week's notice if you are unable to work on a regularly scheduled shift. Being proactive with your schedule gives a family confidence that you will be equally responsible with their children.

  • P atient: 
    Patience is a virtue, and an important one for child carers to have! Just as children need to be reminded to "be patient" and "wait their turn to use the slide," babysitters need to exercise patience with children. Remind them to do their chores; then give them time and space to get it done. Be patient, and continue to offer gentle reminders as necessary.

  • A uthoritative: 
    Child caring isn't all fun and games. If the parents have left specific instructions (no telly, brush teeth before bed, eat five bites of veg before being excused from the table), it is a carer’s job to enforce these rules. You should be gentle and kind but you also need to show them who is in charge. It's important that you talk about discipline with the family ahead of time, and learn how to handle bad behaviour in ways the parents have requested.

  • S imilar Interests: 
    Although not a "requirement," a carer who shares similar interests with the children can make the job more enjoyable for everyone. Always list your interests and skills in your carer credentials.

  • S killed: 
    A carer should have certain qualifications, such as First Aid skills. While Ofsted registered nannies and childminders are required to have these credentials, nowadays, most families expect even babysitters to have these.  If an emergency situation arises, you will be ready to help. St John’s Ambulance runs regular training sessions in First Aid for children and young people, and the British Red Cross has a babysitter course that you can take to learn First Aid and other important child carer skills.

  • T enacious: 
    No matter the situation, a child carer needs to keep at it and never give up. Being tenacious is a lifelong skill. Does the child have a daunting history assignment or need to practice piano for a school concert? How can you get him or her to do it without nagging him? How can you make it fun?


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The next time you interview for a carer job, emphasise the character traits you possess that would make you the perfect candidate for the job. Parents will appreciate learning more about your personality and experience to assess whether you'd be a good fit for their family.

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